A Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center El Paso associate professor is an inspiration to women everywhere after being named to the Women Worth Watching in STEM list for 2022 by Profiles in Diversity Journal.
Munmun Chattopadhyay, M.Sc., Ph.D., a faculty researcher with the university’s Center of Emphasis in Diabetes and Metabolism and an associate professor at the Francis Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences, was selected for the prestigious list along with 25 other professionals across the country.
This is the fourth year the magazine has recognized women based on their contributions, leadership, mentoring and achievements in science, technology, engineering and mathematics. The annual list celebrates the advancements women have made in the STEM fields, while also encouraging continued growth. Recent studies have shown that women make up nearly half of the U.S. workforce, but less than 30% of STEM workers.
Dr. Chattopadhyay was nominated by TTUHSC El Paso for her research, success in publishing to peer-reviewed research journals and mentorship of TTUHSC El Paso students, 48% of whom identify as Hispanic and are often first-generation college students. Currently, 52% of TTUHSC El Paso students are from border counties throughout Texas. Their education and training at the university prepare them to remain in or return to their hometowns to practice in areas with unique needs and a shortage of health care professionals.
“I’m overwhelmed and happy to be a part of this prestigious group of professionals,” Dr. Chattopadhyay said. “Since day one, when I started my career in science, I wanted to be a part of a team that promotes and recognizes scientific accomplishments. It’s rewarding to know my hard work through the years has been recognized.”
Dr. Chattopadhyay’s research focuses on diabetes-related complications, which are a major health issue for El Paso’s diverse border population. Profiles in Diversity Journal highlighted her three-year project that will send “artificial mini-hearts’ to the International Space Station, to better understand how microgravity affects the function of the human heart.
TTUHSC El Paso’s Foster School of Medicine is home to four Centers of Emphasis that specialize in cancer, diabetes and metabolism, infectious diseases and neuroscience. The centers focus on illnesses affecting the El Paso community and millions of others across the U.S. These programs are serving as models for addressing the health needs of Latinos and border populations in general.
In Dr. Chattopadhyay’s feature in Profiles in Diversity Journal, she advocates for an increase in visibility and accessibility to STEM careers for minorities and women through merit-based scholarships and mentorship programs. In El Paso, she helps with a TTUHSC El Paso summer camp for El Paso-area high school students and encourages them to pursue STEM careers.
“In an area like El Paso, there are only so many opportunities for STEM careers. We should promote more opportunities to students, so that we can change that,” Dr. Chattopadhyay said. “To move STEM forward, we need to engage at a grassroots level and make sure students know the possibilities they have, and that a career is obtainable. Mentorship is a vital part of that formula. It can change a student’s life – especially those who come from minority families.”
Dr. Chattopadhyay hopes the magazine continues to publish Women Worth Watching in STEM for decades to come. She believes it will inspire women to enter the fields of science, technology, engineering and math.
“Women in STEM are on very exciting and rewarding paths, but we still need a little more appreciation for them because women are expected to balance their professional lives with their personal lives more than men,” Dr. Chattopadhyay said. “There’s still that social expectation that they would take care of the basic day-to-day needs of family while being a professional. Overall, the public needs to recognize the accomplishments of women more, if we are to get more equality.”
She is proud to represent TTUHSC El Paso on the list and believes her inclusion can raise the university’s profile as a destination for promising young professionals.
“I hope to continue working and sharing my experience with my younger colleagues, especially the younger women who come to work here,” Dr. Chattopadhyay said. “Hopefully being included on this list lets women know that TTUHSC El Paso is a place they can come to work and grow within the scientific field.”
TTUHSC El Paso is the only health sciences center on the U.S.-Mexico border and serves 108 counties in West Texas that have been historically underserved. It’s the only health sciences center along the U.S.-Mexico border designated as a Title V Hispanic-Serving Institution, preparing the next generation of health care heroes.